The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Field Music
Measure John Calvert , February 19th, 2010 10:40

Add your comment »

The brothers Brewis are natural Situationists, far too clever to take life overly seriously. This is no doubt what made Field Music's first two albums such quirky vignettes for equally smart boys to read Beckett too. This puts them about ten smarty-pants notches higher up the Gartside scale of deconstructionist discourse, than any other Brit post-punk revivalists since 2001.

Take Bloc Party. As incorrigible purveyors of sweeping bombast they lack post-punk's acrid form (save an icy acuteness) and because there's a difference between self-awareness and being enlightened, also the era's tricky content. Then there's the tacky rockists like Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park who cursorily affect an absurdist humour under choppy conventionalism. It was Field Music and The Futureheads who best captured that post-Magazine sense of existential paradox, wryly laughing along with life's cruel revelations, a cheery despair intermingling with a North- Eastern humble sensibility.

In Field Music's case it's that seems their stance isn't conducive to making enduring pop music. Admittedly, to some they are witty, poised and chic, but to most it's all so hatefully dry. And off to Franz the curious bystanders go. After reforming sans Andrew Moore, FM's first outing is characteristically multi-faceted. Measure sees their boundless capacity for creative ingenuity circumvented onto a larger pasture (20 tracks large), and their palette widened. Alas though, for all the quality, they're still a long way off from being anyone's favourite band.

Again, as was the case with its predecessors, Measure is palpably haunted by that same anally-retentive meta quality, despite the Brewis' claims that the various forays into Fleetwood Mac or Zeppelin etc have yielded a looser and less cerebral product. The press is that the brothers are genuine fans of their various reference points, but to listen, it's hard to know whether they're conducting some conceptualist play on the music or really getting their hands dirty. No matter how many McCartney-esque melodies, bended blues-notes, string motifs and hand-claps on employed, all is configured through a prism of impersonal new-wave charade. It's not the product of unctuousness on their part, nor is it a precious album, they just can't seem to escape who they are: diffident, old-before-their-time, would-be playwrights. Rest assured, their assorted XTC-isms of yore –the tendency to frustrate energies, the sheer dynamics and the mellow discord – continue to lurk.

If there's a through line on Measure, it's that the brothers have shipped post-punk in favour of early art-pop, modelling a detached recreation of an already pretty seperated aesthetic. On the likes of 'Them That Do Nothing' - a humourless scoff as they admit their own apathy - they're reminiscent of a groove-less Roxy Music, while 'Curves Of The Needle' is like a less pop-art, less lustrous Young Americans-period Bowie. Now, maybe the mid-tempo riches of florid, pre-punk art-rock seem pedestrian to our over-adrenalized minds, but either way, in the ruthlessly simple game of listener gratification Measure is a stultifying old thing - stagy, born of theory, rarely invigorating and all technical élan, no impulse.

If the duo are attempting a sincere, de-intellectualised emotion, it's that of a late-20s loss of purpose. Pervading that faint, silky, Field Music sound and beneath the newly durable textures, lives a theme of gentle dissatisfaction. Measure's best asset, though, is how sumptuously out-of-time the brothers sound, so completely displaced in tone, attitude and manner to the typical millennial male. It's an almost preternatural talent and isolates them as a precious example of contemporary British eccentricity. It's a shame, then, that they're unable to take you there; that grey afternoon, some year in provincial England's suburban experience, or whatever time and place they travel to in their minds to transmit such old-fashioned dreams.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.

Feb 19, 2010 11:22pm

A pretty good, if slightly pessimistic review. I'd say the album comes across better than the impression given above but I agree with a lot of the points. They describe very much how I feel about this record. The previous record, Tones of Town, was IMO much better.

More concise, more invigoratingm more inspired and just more enjoyable overall. A couple more records like that and I cold start to call them my favourite band. But, as it stands, it is a mere curiosity. Measure has an album worth of good tracks but like most double albums the quality and cohesion is lost and diluted.

Reply to this Admin

F. Leghorn
Feb 20, 2010 2:02am

In reply to Jim:

Well, the review seems a bit hard on the fellows, although I can't say as though your points are entirely invalid. I like them quite a bit ( even the side projects ), and while the new album is a bit overstuffed, it doesn't seem stultifyingly so. I definitely appreciate the fact that they seem 'not of their time'. I feel the same way, most days, myself. Considering the dire state of most 'guitar-based music', I'll take their small favors over the relative bombast of most of what comes down the pike.
Still, a very fair review, I think.

Reply to this Admin

Feb 21, 2010 6:12pm

> On the likes of 'Them That Do Nothing' - a humourless scoff as they admit their own apathy

Only the tiniest bit of research is needed to find out what that song was actually about:

Reply to this Admin

Jim Woodward
Feb 22, 2010 12:09am

There's them as likes Field Music, and them as errr... don't. This album seems to be particularily divisive, definite marmitic overtones. Aside from a couple of songs that don't really engage me - on a double album, what were the odds? - I fucking LOVE this, inspiring, articulate, innovative, and for me at least, moving.
I don't say this to be pointlessly contrary- they're my favourite band at the moment.

Reply to this Admin

Feb 22, 2010 11:10pm

that's a really interesting take, cheers!

Reply to this Admin

Mike Evans
Mar 1, 2010 12:56pm

Field Music are by far my favourite band at the moment. In fact I would say they are rapidly becoming one of my favourite bands full stop. The new album is fantastic. CD1 continues along their trademark quirky pop route and is comparable if not superior to anything that they have done before. CD2 is the grower and shows them experimenting a lot more. The 2nd CD is quite sparse in parts but it all hangs together brilliantly. I really can't recommend it enough!

Reply to this Admin

Matthew Lindsay
Mar 1, 2010 8:01pm

Very odd, uncharitable review. This records displays an impeccable range of style and content, its'dazzling scope and ambition within the space of just one song dwarfing that of most modern guitar music. Its' not empty record collectin rock , they are purveyors of a very english meloncholy filtered through a kaleidoscopc musical lexicon. There's heart and soul at the core of this record amid the 10cc-style art-pop japes. It's too easy, too facile to scoff at measure simply because it is a double. It never feels indulgent or outstays it's welcome partlky because of its' beguiling synthesis of antithetical influences; Kate Bush meets Gang Of Four with a healthy dose of Tusk-era Mac and Pink Floyd existential ennui. Measure transcends the straitjacket of astringent post-post-punk conformity with its far-reaching influences and its' tender generosity of spirit

Reply to this Admin

b. Lee
Mar 5, 2010 3:43pm

Excellent review. The manner in which you captured Field Music's "not of this era" style was truly inspiring. And even if their presentation can appear to be a bit on the detached, or calculated side, their approach to songcraft is still supremely refreshing. Rarely does one encounter a band so attuned to detail and style, yet so restrained in production. Their songs have character to the point where they stand on their own, rather than many bands today whose efforts seem to rely more on shtick or reputation, which often muddles the ability to discern quality from expectation.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 15, 2010 11:31pm

To add to the previous reviews, it's fucking excellent. The most gloriously sexless music, which is something you don't catch yourself saying in a good way very often.

Reply to this Admin

Jun 15, 2010 10:04pm

pompous, psuedo intellectual tosh. the writing that is, not the album.

Reply to this Admin